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Philippine tourism department launches app to register, track visitors in La Union

The tourism industry is the latest sector to receive a digital upgrade as the Philippines continues to ramp up its services through digital solutions. According to Bernadette Romulo–Puyat, Secretary of the Department of Tourism (DOT), the agency has formally launched a new mobile app in La Union that would allow tourists seeking to visit the province to apply for entry permits online. 

The newly-launched application is called the R1 VISITA or the Visitors Information and Travel Assistance programme. Travellers may use the app to register their entry into the region and upload documents including their itinerary, COVID-19 test results, travel authority and bookings in establishments accredited by the department. Once registered, they will be issued individual QR Codes. 

Through the R1 VISITA, local authorities will be able to track visitors’ movements across the region. Data gathered will also be used to monitor the influx of tourists who enter the province. According to the DOT, the VISITA app will be operational next year and initial estimates show that the application can accommodate a maximum of 50 registrants per day. Aside from downloading the app, tourists may also register through the Visita 1 website. 

The virtual registration system was an undertaking of DOT Region 1. The recent launch marks another attempt by the tourism department to allow seamless entry applications despite restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

The Tourism Secretary expressed her enthusiasm over their latest project. She added, “Visitors and tourists in Region 1 would be able to take advantage of this newly-integrated management system that combines La Union’s Napanam contact tracing features with the Visita system”. 

The launch was well-attended by tourism officials led by DOT Region 1 Director Joseph Francisco Ortega. It was held at the Plaza De Castiel in the San Juan town of La Union. The DOT Secretary was a guest of honour and a distinguished speaker.  

La Union is not the first to benefit from the R1 VISITA. Earlier this year, the Tourism Department announced that it will roll out the VISITA platform to a number of areas in the region including Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. One of these areas is Baguio City, which has seen a significant dent in its tourism industry since the pandemic hit. The virtual platform has paved the way for a more safe and secure mode of re-opening Baguio’s local tourism. 

The DOT Secretary added, “Baguio City was the first to use the VISITA app during the launching of the ridge to reef travel corridor last September 22. I hope that more provinces and regions will also integrate their contact tracing processes and monitoring under one app system for travellers’ conveniences”. 

She also explained that La Union is the first area in Region 1 to adopt an integrated system for the entry application of travellers. 

Aside from launching the app, the tourism department said it had turned over training grants worth PHP 400,000 (US$ 8,322) to professional surfing instructors in San Juan, La Union. Other groups, including the Association of Tour Guides in La Union and the Bangar Loom Weavers Association, were also recipients of financial grants. 

The Philippine government has been amplifying its digital transformation across a slew of its agencies. With restrictions in place due to the pandemic, innovative systems have been introduced to track the entry of travellers in all areas of the country. In a report by OpenGov Asia, President Rodrigo Duterte recently gave the green light to introduce the Advance Passenger Information (API) system. The new programme is set to be implemented by common carriers in support of the government’s agenda to exercise intensive border control and immigration procedures. 

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